Saturday, April 10, 2010

Adoptions, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Yesterday, the news hit that a 7 year old boy adopted by an US family had been put on a plane and sent back to Russia. The outrage was all over news. The mother had relinquished the child to her mother after she became afraid of the child's behavior. She said she feared for the life of her children. Aghast, outrageous, how could she...the outrage from professionals, from individuals. Yes this is outrageous but anyone with this outrage needs to take a close look at why this kind of thing happens. She isn't the first to act out of desperation and sadly she won't be the last. Take a look at what is happening in Liberian adoptions too.  These are very sad stories and the ugly side of international adoption.

There are few people (including professionals and adoption agencies) who talk about or even understand the cold hard facts and dilemma traumatized children bring to their new families. Children adopted from places where neglect and abuse is commonplace and who have been institutionalized come with huge problems. There is hope these children can heal and lead productive lives but only if those who place them educate parents about the issues BEFORE deciding to bring a traumatized child/ren into their homes.

When a child is neglected severely (no nurturing, multiple caregivers etc), there is a chemical shift in their brains chemistry. These children's brains stay in the primitive or reptile brain. The children live in a state of hyper vigilance and go into fight/flight/freeze mode in a desperate attempt to live and survive. There is a huge struggle going on internally. Most are very physically and emotionally dysregulated. They can't even cope with how they feel in their own skin let alone function in the world. Without proper handling, children with severe attachment disorder and early trauma can't empathize. They don't develop a conscience or relationship with their caregivers or families. They can become sociopathic and their only focus is survival.  Early childhood (developmental trauma disorder) trauma is devastating to not only the child but also his entire family. The entire family is at risk and need a great deal of outside support just to sustain themselves. Add to this parents who are clueless and have no education about this process and agencies who promise sweet children with no issues and you have a complete recipe for disaster.

As I watched Dr. Phil berate the boy's  mother and grandmother (on CNN with Anderson Cooper) and mention in a fleeting comment there maybe some children who might possibly have attachment issues, I became angry. This young boy was adopted at 6 years of age. Even in a best case scenario there was neglect in a Russian orphanage. Alcohol abuse in Russia is also common. While I am not saying what the grandmother did was right - it was reprehensible in many ways - I can understand an invision that desperation, a complete lack of adequate mental health services and no insurance covering mental health  - can lead to desperate acts. If you thought a family member was going to kill your family, set fire to the house and kill everyone inside, and you had no where to turn, your thinking might be cloudy too.

We have a horrible and growing problem in this country. We are still in the dark ages as far as the way we approach and treat mental health issues. This family was obviously in crisis. There are way too many questions and the focus should be on what happened to make this mother and grandmother so desperate. This is a very complex issue. It is not black and white but many shades of gray. Before you jump on the "off with their heads" mentality, I think we all need to look at what happened to make this family take such an outrageous and desperate action.

For more information on Attachment Disorder

 Parent support of an attachment disordered child or a child with a trauma history

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1 comment:

  1. awesome post Nancy. You are speaking truth in the "cloudy" culture of adoption, where the truth is glossed over too frequently.